Horse Riding Skills Checklist

Last Updated on August 8, 2022

If you are a novice or learner rider, a horse riding skills checklist can be a useful guide to help you understand your learning journey. Learning to ride a horse is not just about progressing as quickly as possible, but also involves learning about how to care for horses and ride different types of horses. Let’s find out whether a horse riding skills checklist is the right tool for you!

What Is A Horse Riding Skills Checklist?

Learning how to ride and care for horses is a lengthy process with many levels. It is important that the skills are mastered at each level before progressing on to the next level. Here are some examples of the skills that horse riders should learn at each stage of their training.

Basic Skills For Beginners

  • Learn how to lead a horse correctly.
  • Learn how to catch and turn out a horse into a field.
  • Identify the different grooming brushes and learn how to use them correctly.
  • Identify the colors and markings of horses.
  • Learn basic horse anatomy, including the key points of the horse.
  • Identify the different parts of the saddle and bridle and understand how to clean them correctly.
  • Learn how to saddle up a horse.
  • Mount and dismount a horse correctly.
  • Practice basic balance skills whilst on the horse.
  • Learn to sit in the correct position at the walk, both with and without stirrups.
  • Control the speed of the horse at walk and trot.
  • Practice transitions between walk and trot, and walk and halt.
  • Learn how to steer a horse using the reins, seat, and legs.
  • Practice maintaining your position in both sitting and posting trot.

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Intermediate Horse Skills

  • Learn how to cancel the horse on both reins, identifying the leading leg.
  • Practice transitions between trot and canter, and walk and canter.
  • Understand how to identify if you are on the correct or incorrect diagonal at trot, and correct this accordingly.
  • Ride a serpentine manoeuvre at the trot.
  • Practice trotting without stirrups, at both posting trot and sitting trot.
  • Learn how to ride with the reins in one hand, including practicing halts from all gaits.
  • Understand how maintaining your own physical strength and fitness can benefit your riding ability.

Horse Rider’s Mechanic Workbook 2: Your Balance

Advanced Learner Rider Skills – Horse Riding Skills Checklist

  • Be able to carry out an effective halt to trot and trot to halt transitions.
  • Maintain your balance at sitting trot without stirrups.
  • Carry out simple changes of lead at the canter.
  • Learn how to recognize and change diagonal through feeling the movement of the horse.
  • Learn how to ask the horse to rein back.
  • Practice a standing canter in preparation for jumping.
  • Learn how to ride without a saddle.
  • Take part in a horse competition or group event.

Master Skill Tasks For Learner Riders

  • Canter a serpentine complete with changes of lead.
  • Maintain and alter the speed and stride length of the canter.
  • Carry out changes of lead in a straight line.
  • Maintain a balanced position over small jumps, both in the arena and out on trails.
  • Maintain a correct riding position in both a western saddle and an English saddle.
  • Understand how to help your horse maintain a relaxed, balanced position.
  • Learn basic horse healthcare, including emergency first aid treatment.

Obviously, this is not a conclusive list and just shows a few examples of the types of skills you should learn at each stage of your riding. It is clear to see that learning to ride a horse involves many different factors. The basic skills are mastered before moving on to the next stage.

If you’re a complete novice when it comes to horses, it is vital to work with a reputable trainer to learn how to ride and handle horses safely. Horses are large and unpredictable creatures and can be dangerous in inexperienced hands. However, if done correctly, learning how to ride and care for horses is one of the most rewarding hobbies you can have.

What Is A Horse Riding Skills Checklist

To find a good horse riding trainer in your area, speak to local equine specialists such as your feed merchants or farrier. A good trainer will work with you at your own pace and not attempt to rush you through the horse riding skills checklist before you are ready.

Summary – Horse Riding Skills Checklist

So as we have learned, a horse riding skills checklist does not just cover how well someone can ride a horse, but also their horse management and stable skills. A good horse rider should be able to work with the horse on the ground and provide appropriate care for the horse as well as ride the horse in a competent manner. Working through a horse riding skills checklist is a great way to ensure that a novice rider receives a holistic training approach.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on the best horse riding skills checklist to use! Did you have a horse riding skills checklist when you learn to ride? Or maybe you’re struggling to understand what some of the things on the horse riding skills checklist actually mean? Leave a comment below and we’ll get back to you!


What are equestrian skills?

The term equestrian skills is used to describe anything to do with working alongside horses, including riding and horse management. Horses are large and unpredictable animals and a good level of equestrian skills will help you work alongside these horses without any risk of danger.

What makes someone good at horseback riding?

Becoming good at horseback riding requires time and patience. This is a difficult skill to learn as it requires learning new movements and balancing with the horse.

What is the hardest discipline in horse riding?

One of the hardest disciplines in horse riding is eventing. This sport requires the horse and riders to compete in three different activities. These are dressage, show jumping, and riding successfully round a course cross country course of fixed jumps.

How do you know if your a good rider?

Being a good rider does not necessarily mean that you can go the fastest or jump the highest. A good rider is one that works sympathetically with the horse, getting the best out of their mount. If your horse seems happy in his work, then it's highly likely you are a good rider.